Indy 11 Home Tonite, USA COPA America vs Columbia Fri 9:30 pm FS1, Europa Cup Starts 6/10, Real Madrid Wins Classic
So the Indy 11 moved into 2nd place overall in the NASL Standings with a 1-1 tie on the road at Jacksonville last Saturday night – tonite its US Open Cup action as the Indy11 face USL’s top team Louisville FC at 7:30 pm at the Mike. The game is not on TV or Radio so get on down to the Mike to see it live – tickets still available starting at just $11 each. The USA was impressive in its final tune-up before the Copa America starts this Friday night, with the US facing Columbia at 9:30 pm on Fox Sports 1. See the entire COPA AMERICA TV schedule below as games will be on Fox, Fox Sports 1, and Fox Sports 2 each evening next week and all weekend long all thru June. The SUMMER OF SOCCER Continues – with the Europa Cup which starts next Friday afternoon and continues all of June – during the mornings and afternoons on ESPN and ESPN2 – I will have a full breakdown on that next week. Meanwhile – enjoy the start of the COPA America – and good luck to all those teams competing in State, President’s and Challenge Cup this weekend in Columbus.
2 TICKETS TO SEE the USA Men Play LIVE – Soldier Field Chicago – Tues Night- June 7 @ 8 pm
So I have 2 tickets to the COPA AMERICA USA vs Costa Rica game on Tuesday night, June 8 pm (Central Time) in Chicago – Soldier Field. Tickets just $75 each (face value w/o the fees).. Re: or email email@example.com
ALL GAMES ON TV
Thurs, June 2
2:45 pm FS1 England vs Portugal
9 pm FS 1 US Ladies vs Japan
Fri, June 3 COPA AMERICA 100 STARTS
9:30 pm Fox Sports1 USA vs Columbia
Sat, June 4
12 noon ESPN3 Spain vs Bosnia
5 pm Fox COPA Costa Rica vs Paraguay
7:30 pm FS2 COPA Haita vs Peru
8 pm TV 8, ESPN3 Indy 11 @ Miami
10 pm FS 1 COPA Brazil vs Ecuador
Sun, June 5
12 noon ESPN3 Spain vs Bosnia
12:30 pm ESPN2 US Ladies vs Japan
2:45 pm ESPN 3 Italy vs Scotland
5 pm Fox COPA – Jamaica vs Venezuela
7 pm Fox Sports 1 COPA- Mexico vs Uruguay
Mon, June 6
7 pm FS1 COPA – Panama vs Bolivia
10 pm FS1 COPA – Argentina vs Chile
Tues, June 7
8 pm Fox Sports1 USA vs Costa Rica – Solider Field – Tix Available!
10 pm Fox Sports 1 COPA- Mexico vs Uruguay
Fri, June 10 European Cup Starts
3 pm ESPN EURO- France vs Romania
Sat, June 11
9 am ESPN EURO – Albania vs Switzerland
12 noon ESPN EURO – Wales vs Slovakia
3 pm ESPN EURO – England vs Russia
7 pm Fox Sport1 USA vs Paraguay
9 pm FS2 COPA – Columbia vs Costa Rica
MLS TV Schedule ‘ On Break June 3-June 17 for COPA
COPA AMERICA 100 –GAMES IN CHICAGO – still seats left for USA Game , Argentina game and Semi-Finals.
International Champions Cup – ICC – @ Chicago – Bayern Munich vs AC Milan Soldier Field Wed 7/27 @ 8 pm Tix still available $35 to $135
I still have 2 Tickets at Cost to the USA vs Costa Rica Game in Chicago Tues Night 7 pm – American Outlaw Tailgating
American raised Giuseeppe Rossi Regrets choosing Italy of US – agent says – (yeah tough crap- Karma is a bitch to the Turncoat!!)
COPA America 100 in USA
Group B – Preview – Brazil + Ecuador
Soccer Camps – Boys and Girls -Ages 6 – 14
Ok so its almost Summer Camp time – below are some nice options for Soccer Camps this summer
Indy 11 Soccer Camp June 20-23 — 9 am till 12 noon Ages 5-14 $135 @ Badger Fields
Kick in the Grass – 3 v 3 Soccer Tour at Badger Field July 9th
Goal2Gol Soccer Camp
CHS Men’s Head Coach Shane Schmidt, a former U-20 US National Team player, runs his annual camp from 9 am to 2 pm July 11-16. $150 before 6/30 @ River Road Fields.
Post2Post Soccer Camp
Former Pittsburgh Head Coach Sue-Moy Chin and Former Iowa Coach Carla Baker run their annual field player camp for players of all abilities July 25-28 — 9 am to 3 pm $195 each @ Badger
ndy Eleven Gameday & Match Preview
Indy Eleven vs. Louisville City FC (USL)
Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup – Third Round
Wednesday, June 1, 2016 – 7:30 p.m. ET
Michael A. Carroll Stadium – Indianapolis, IN
- Indy Eleven: 3W-5D-0L, 14 pts; 2nd in NASL Spring Season
- Louisville City FC: 7W-3D-1L, 24 pts; 1st in USL Eastern Conference
- nline audio: IndyEleven.com
- Pre-game preview via IndyEleven Facebook Live
- In-game updates on Twitter @IndyElevenLive
- Post-game reaction through @IndyEleven Periscope (also via @IndyEleven Twitter)
Indy Eleven and Louisville City FC are in a peculiar position … geographically they are just two hours apart (or 90 minutes depending on your driving style), but they are separately by league affiliation, putting a wedge in a potential rivalry. However, U.S. Soccer has done fans of both sides a favor for a second straight season, pitting the two together in a Third Round fixture in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup once again – a game that will again be contested at “The Mike.”While Indy Eleven’s arrival to the American soccer scene preceded Louisville’s by a year, it’s been the newcomers holding the advantage between the two by taking last year’s Third Round affair by a 2-0 score in added extra time in addition to a preseason result each of the last two seasons. While most preseason contests are ragged affairs – the new group of Boys in Blue was still very much figuring things out during the contest this past March – and the results count for nothing, tendencies can be learned, and grudges can fester from them.Sure, it’s not fit to call the occasional meeting between Indy and Louisville a rivalry at this point, but there will indeed be more than a Fourth Round pairing against MLS’ Chicago Fire SC when the two sides clash on Wednesday night.
ast Time Out – Jacksonville Armada FC 1 : 1 Indy Eleven
Indy Eleven travelled to the Sunshine State for the first of two visits in one week, this time to the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville where they faced Jacksonville Armada FC. It was a lethargic start for the “Boys in Blue” as the humid conditions added an extra challenge to the night, and the hosts took advantage of a prostrated midfield to get on the board first. After pummeling ‘keeper Jon Busch with repeated shots in the first half hour – only to see the veteran equal to every effort – captain Matt Bahner rocketed home a distance effort that beat Busch to his near post to give Armada FC a 1-nil advantage. The closest “Indiana’s Team” got to goal was a point-blank header from Eamon Zayed that was denied well by JAX ‘netminder Sebastian Evers.The second half brought a bit of a flurry from both sides as the Eleven clawed their way towards an equalizer while Jacksonville attempted to build on their one goal lead. In the 73rd minute, Jacksonville’s lead gave way to a thumping header from Justin Braun, his second tally in as many games. Impact substitute Jair Reinoso raced towards the end line and lifted a ball dead center of the box, where Braun put his vertical leap to the test and knocked in an equalizer past substitute ‘keeper Miguel Gallardo.Both sides scrambled for a winner towards the end of the match, and substitute winger Duke Lacroix nearly created the perfect chance as he drove a low ball into the area, but with no teammates there to meet his cross the chance fell through. The 1-1 draw might not have been the full three they wanted to take back, but it did elevate Indiana’s Team to second place in the 2016 Spring Season table with two matches remaining – this weekend’s visit to Miami FC an a home match against the Carolina Railhawks on June 11.
Testing Squad Depth
A week with a congested fixture list means one where the depth of the squad will be tested. For “Indiana’s Team,” that means some new faces … and some old faces that may seem new again.For a perfect example, see Eleven defender Marco Franco. One of the more well-known “Boys in Blue,” he suited up for nearly every regular season match last year and ranked first in minutes played during the 2015 NASL season. However, on a roster that only retained eleven players there were bound to be challenges for the starting spot in each position. Franco has started only one match for Indy Eleven – Saturday night’s bout with Jacksonville Armada FC in place of an injured Lovel Palmer. For him, though, it is necessary to keep a “next man up” mentality going forward.“You just have to be mentally tough. It’s part of the game, and part of the business. You’re going to have guys come in every year and try to take your spot – you just have to give your all on the field and hope for the best. That’s all yu can do. Every day, train hard, get better, improve, and that’s all you can ask for,” said Franco.While there will be a few familiar bodies in the starting XI Wednesday night, the spotlight will be shining on those with a point to prove, and now a stage to prove it on.
One Eye on Two Competitions
The other half of tomorrow night is the difficulty of touching the top in separate competitions. For Coach Tim Hankinson, the emphasis is being placed on the competition within closest reach. Right now, that’s the 2016 Spring Season where the Eleven are two games away from potentially being champions assuming they take six points out of six and get some help from Fort Lauderdale against the front-running New York Cosmos on Saturday night.However, the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup is a prestigious tournament in its own right, and one that’s gaining more notoriety with each passing year. To not go all out in an attempt to progress would be to disrespect the occasion of the match – something Coach Hankinson is strongly opposed to. Therefore, a balance must be found in the team between going all out for the Spring title and going for the U.S. Open Cup, where the Eleven were not up to the task last season against this same Louisville side.
Who to Watch, Indy Eleven edition: MF Duke Lacroix
Like Marco Franco, Duke Lacroix is another player with a likely chance to showcase his talents when the Eleven take the field tomorrow night in this #USOC2016 Third Round encounter. Lacroix, who featured in the first XI in Indy’s first three games to start 2016, has a tendency to flash through the back line and create chances for teammates waiting in the area – or slash inside and create for himself.While the winger has an eye for goal, he also has a variety in skillset that will allow him to be one of Coach Hank’s most formidable weapons. While he’s the youngest player on the squad as 22 years of age, he’ll still be tasked with jumpstarting the team’s attack against a LCFC defense that has allowed just nine goals in 11 matches and also shut down the Indy attack when the two met in a 1-0 Lou City win in a March preseason fixture.
Who to Watch, Louisville City FC edition: FW Jon Chandler Hoffman
A monster in front of net, Chandler Hoffman has netted seven times in ten appearances to put him at third on the USL’s scoring chart. A physical forward with MLS experience, Hoffman most recently played with the Houston Dynamo before going n a loan spell with the Colorado Springs Switchbacks. Now he commands the attack for the third-highest scoring team in the USL with a chance to prove himself in front of a NASL side. While it was Andrew Lubahn who scored the winner against Indy in the preseason, Hoffman will want to get off the mark quickly when the two meet tomorrow. An Eleven defense that may have some moving parts will have to communicate effectively and clear their line their lines properly to avoid letting a chance slip through to the scrappy forward.
Match-up to Mark: FW Jair Reinoso vs. Lou City goalkeeper TBD
Jair Reinoso has been a fairly major player this season as one of multiple new signings in Coach Hankinson’s attack. He scored the opening goal on the road at Rayo OKC and has shown his ability both on the ball and off, brushing past players with pace while making enough runs forward to outlast Roadrunner.Playing time has been limited as he worked himself to full fitness through the first month of the season, but he’s shown the ability to both finish (see his stunning strike at Rayo OKC) in addition to set up a teammate as he did with Braun last weekend. One challenge for Wednesday, though, is not knowing the opposition goalkeeper – whether Joseph Goodwin steps in net or his teammate Gregory Ranjitsingh. Both have registered six appearances – Goodwin having conceded eight goals while making 17 saves to Ranjitsingh’s one conceded and 10 saves.Regardless who is minding the net for LCFC tomorrow, the focus remains the same for Reinoso: make goals happen, then survive and advance.
Indy Eleven Stay Unbeaten with 1-1 Draw at Jacksonville Armada FC
The “Boys in Blue” take one point from the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville as the Spring Season rolls on
JACKSONVILLE (Saturday, May 28, 2016) – A crucial second half equalizer from forward Justin Braun secured an important point for Indy Eleven after a hard fought tussle with Jacksonville Armada FC ended 1-1 at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville. The result temporarily moves “Indiana’s Team” into a tie for second place on 14 points with two matches remaining.
Chances were few and far early on between as both sides took their time settling into the match. It was Armada FC who looked most eager early on and midfielder Junior Sandoval was the first to test Eleven ‘keeper Jon Busch, though the veteran was equal to everything kicked his way in the opening fifteen minutes. For the visitors, forward Eamon Zayed came closest at the twenty minute mark as midfielder Don Smart whipped in a long, hanging cross that found the head of the Irishman, only for Armada FC ‘netminder Sebastian Evers to make a point-blank save.
In the 29th minute, the match got chippy as defender Cory Miller entered the referee’s book after fouling Jacksonville forward Danny Barrow just outside the Indy area. Again, it was midfielder Junior Sandoval standing over the free kick duties but his curling effort was deflected off the wall and off the underside of the crossbar to keep things level at zero.
However, one minute later the deadlock was broken. Following the free kick on the ensuing Jacksonville attack, Armada FC defender Matt Bahner took a pass and unleashed a powerful low drive to beat GK Jon Busch to his near post as the hosts jumped ahead.he Eleven took their first steps to an equalizer in the 35th minute via a Nemanja Vukovic free kick. A favorable angle for the left-footed defender, he clipped the ball over the wall but could not keep it on frame as ‘keeper Sebastian Evers saw the effort wide. Just before half, “Indiana’s Team” had another golden opportunity after a long throw from winger Omar Gordon, but Evers was equal to the close range chance at the far post to keep his side 1-nil up.Halftime came and went as neither side made changes for the second period of play. The Armada came out as the aggressors with an early opportunity that forced Jon Busch into one of his four saves, this time as he denied forward Alhassane Keita what would have been the go-ahead goal. Five minutes later, Jacksonville won a free kick that broke into the Indy area only for Busch to come off his line and take the effort with both palms. Potentially a match-turning moment came in the 56th minute when acksonville ‘keeper Sebastian Evers went down awkwardly following a free kick, forcing the hosts into their first change of the night bringing in Miguel Gallardo in his place.The Eleven kept pounding towards the Armada goal, and in the 73rd minute they got their reward. Impact substitute Jair Reinoso found a yard of space outside the area and lifted a ball dead center of the area where his teammate Justin Braun was waiting. Indy’s No.17 met the cross with a thunderous header leaving Gallardo scrambling on his line, with nothing to do to prevent the equalizer as Braun tallied his second goal in two weeks.The “Boys in Blue” continued to press on the host’s defense, but when Omar Gordon won a set-piece chance on the right flank in the 78th minute, Nemanja Vukovic’s delivery was too near the ‘keeper Gallardo and the opportunity was missed.Jacksonville had one more quality look at goal in the 87th minute as substitute Matt Fondy did well to angle a pass into the path of his teammate Keita. The Guinean forward then turned towards Indy’s goal to squeeze a shot past Busch, but defender Marco Franco was in the right place at the right time to clear the ball off the line, preserving the 1-1 scoreline. The match ended at one-all and Coach Hankinson and co. took their third point out of the Sunshine state in as many visits.Indy Eleven returns home midweek on Wednesday, June 1, when it will host Louisville City FC in the Third Round of the 2016 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup at Carroll Stadium. Tickets for last year’s USOC rematch are available starting at $5 in the Brickyard Battalion sections at http://www.IndyEleven.com or over the phone at 317-685-1100 (Mon.-Fri., 9:00a.m.-5:00p.m.)
NASL Spring Season
Jacksonville Armada FC 1 : 1 Indy Eleven
Saturday, May 28, 2016
Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville – Jacksonville, FL
Spring Season: 3W-5D-0L, 14 pts., 2nd place
Jacksonville Armada FC:
Spring Season: 1W-2D-5L, 5 pts., 10th place
JAX – Matt Bahner (unassisted) 30′
IND – Justin Baun (Jair Reinoso) 73′
IND – Cory Miller (caution) 28′
IND – Nicki Paterson (caution) 41′
JAX – Matt Bahner (caution) 63′
IND – Nemanja Vukovic (caution) 70′
Indy Eleven line-up (4-4-2, L–>R): Jon Busch; Nemanja Vukovic, Cory Miller, Colin Falvey, Marco Franco; Omar Gordon (Duke Lacroix 82′), Dylan Mares (Gorka Larrea 60′), Nicki Paterson, Don Smart (Jair Reinoso 60′); Justin Braun, Eamon Zayed
Indy Eleven bench: Keith Cardona (GK), Neil Shaffer, Daniel Keller
Jacksonville Armada line-up (4-3-3, L–>R): Sebastian Evers (Miguel Gallardo 57′); Matt Bahner, Tyler Ruthvan, Beto Navarro, Shawn Nicklaw; Nicolas Perea (Patrick Otte 74′), Junior Sandoval, Kevan George; Jemal Johnson, Alhassane Keita, Danny Barrow (Matthew Fondy 82′)
Jacksonville Armada FC bench: Bryan Burke, Alex Dixon, Derek Gebhard, Charles Eloundou
USMNT: Five things to watch in the Copa
This story originally appeared in ESPN The Magazine’s June 6 World Football Issue. Subscribe today!
June’s Copa America Centenario will serve as a high-stakes midterm exam for the USMNT. Slotted halfway between World Cups, the tourney against the Americas’ best will reveal lots about where the U.S. squad — and controversial coach Jurgen Klinsmann — stand two years shy of Russia 2018. It’s been a tough 12 months for the Americans, as the U.S. finished a disappointing fourth at last summer’s Gold Cup, failed to qualify for the Confederations Cup and, most shockingly of all, lost 2-0 to 95th ranked Guatemala in March — a loss that temporarily put it in danger of not qualifying for Russia ’18.
Klinsmann and the U.S. desperately need a strong showing on home soil in the Copa but were drawn into a very tough Group A alongside Colombia (fourth in FIFA rankings), Costa Rica (25th in FIFA rankings) and Paraguay (39th in FIFA rankings). The tournament could also be a swan song for mainstays like Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard and Jermaine Jones before they step aside for the next generation. There are subplots all over the field — here’s what to watch for when the whistle blows on June 3.
Copa half full?
As a seeded team, the U.S. avoided title faves Argentina and Brazil in the group stage but open the tournament against Colombia, FIFA’s fourth-ranked team. Los Cafeteros’ main man is Real Madrid midfielder James Rodriguez, whose 16 shots (two goals) are tied for third in South American World Cup qualifying, despite Rodriguez missing two of Colombia’s six games.
The Yanks’ second opponent is CONCACAF rival Costa Rica, which reached the quarterfinal of the 2014 World Cup and currently sits atop its 2018 World Cup qualifying group after four matches. Costa Rica is never an easy out but was dealt a major blow last month when star goalkeeper Keylor Navas was ruled out for the tournament with an Achilles injury. Navas is a big miss for the Ticos, but Costa Rica has won two straight meetings against the US and boast dangerous attacking players led by Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell.
Paraguay, the U.S.’s final first-round challenger, gives up lots of shots but doesn’t concede many goals. La Albirroja has given up a CONMEBOL-high 89 shots in six games but have conceded only six times, the third fewest in South American World Cup qualifying. Did we mention that the Americans probably need to win the group to avoid Brazil in the quarterfinals?
Colombia striker James Rodriguez took the third-most shots among all player in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying.
Same as the old boss?
Despite growing calls for his head, Klinsmann’s .703 winning percentage in competitive matches tops predecessors Bruce Arena (.674) and Bob Bradley (.677). The U.S. has had some huge road wins (Germany, Mexico, Italy, Netherlands) under Klinsmann, but have also struggled to consistently produce the attacking style he trumpeted when he took the job five years ago. In fact, the U.S. creates fewer shots per game now than it did under Arena and Bradley, and it gives up more opportunities in its own end. With Klinsmann’s Yanks, it’s always feast or famine. How things swing in June is anyone’s guess.
Klinsmann’s tenure has produced mixed results on the pitch.
In his defense
Center back remains a revolving door for the USMNT, as Klinsmann has played five different center backs in the team’s first four World Cup qualifiers. The good news? American defenders made big strides in two of Europe’s top leagues this season. DeAndre Yedlin (Sunderland) and Geoff Cameron (Stoke City) were full-time starters in the English Premier League, while Borussia Monchengladbach’s Fabian Johnson and Hertha Berlin’s John Brooks had very strong campaigns in Germany. Johnson scored a career-best eight goals this season, including two in the Champions League for Monchengladbach, while Brooks was instrumental in Hertha Berlin’s eight-place improvement up the Bundesliga table this season.
Hertha Berlin’s performance was greatly improved when John Brooks played.
Old hands on deck
Despite last year’s struggles, the U.S. will largely stick with experience. Klinsmann’s 23-man Copa roster features 15 of the 23 players who went to Brazil, including aging but still effective stars Tim Howard (37), Jermaine Jones (34) and Clint Dempsey (33). Dempsey scored a team-high nine goals in 2015 and, with Jozy Altidore out injured, the rangy Texan will be leaned on for goals even more.
Though only five players over 33 remain on the U.S. roster, their impact is huge.
Youth is served
At just 17 years old, Borussia Dortmund midfielder Christian Pulisic became the fourth-youngest scorer in Bundesliga history and the youngest player to appear for the USMNT in a World Cup qualifier. Fast, skilled and seemingly unflappable, the Pennsylvania native not only earned a spot on Klinsmann’s 23-man Copa roster but should immediately contend for playing time on the wing. Yedlin, 22, has been a regular with the Nats since the World Cup and had a good season at club level, starting the final 13 EPL matches for relegation survivor Sunderland. Striker Bobby Wood (23) is another young player to watch, as the hero of 2015’s historic wins against Germany and the Netherlands buried 17 goals this season for Union Berlin, the third-highest total in the Bundesliga II. Look for Wood to push for a starting position with Altidore injured, as the native Hawaii
U.S. youngsters Wood, Nagbe, Pulisic making their case for a first-team spot
Gyasi Zardes led the lines with a brace as the United States thrashed Bolivia 4-0 in Kansas City.
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Friendly matches often prove to be a fertile breeding ground for false impressions. Teams are experimenting, substitutions are plentiful and what works in one game can lead into a series of blind alleys when the matches really count.Yet it’s difficult to walk away from the United States’ three recent matches and not come to the following conclusion: The kids are ready for the Copa America.You’ve had Bobby Wood either scoring goals or setting them up, at times in an unfamiliar position on the wing. Darlington Nagbe has been a creative force whenever he has entered a match, and in Saturday’s game against Bolivia he set up a goal for Christian Pulisic who, at 17 years and 253 days, became the youngest goal scorer in the modern era of the U.S. men’s national team.Even Gyasi Zardes — whose tepid performance against Ecuador left him out of the feel-good vibe following that 1-0 win — got into the act, scoring twice against La Verde. His first was a composed finish and the second all determination and grit to latch onto Wood’s cross.”I’m trying to grow in confidence,” Zardes said. “Tonight helps a ton, but you can never be satisfied, you always have to keep working.””Kid” is a relative term of course, and only Pulisic really fits that label. Wood is 23, Zardes is 24 and Nagbe will turn 26 next month. Their respective tenures are varied as well, but all seemed poised to have an impact on a side that until recently was looking stale.The emergence of Nagbe and Pulisic in particular is welcome. The U.S. pool seemed bereft of creative types, but now the side has some depth in this area.So is manager Jurgen Klinsmann ready to give that quartet the minutes needed to make an impact in the Copa? He should, and following Friday’s demolition of Bolivia, he sounded like a man who would, but only in appropriate doses. After all, neither Nagbe nor Pulisic has ever started for the U.S.”This is a process and the process is never-ending,” Klinsmann said. “Those first couple of years when you are a pro, it’s a big learning curve. How far this process takes you now into that Copa America, we’ll take it one step at a time.”We put the pieces together the best way that we get the results. But I think over the next couple of weeks, they will get the opportunity to play minutes and leave an impression and push more and more the established players towards their edge, which is their job. That’s normal.”It will be a very intense and interesting next couple of weeks.”The problem, if you can call it that, is that there are more players than there are available places in the lineup.That is down to the 4-3-3 that Klinsmann has settled upon, one that features a three-man midfield composed of Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones and Alejandro Bedoya that is as balanced as any in recent memory.Bradley’s comfort level appears to have skyrocketed now that he’s a dedicated No. 6. Jones is still the havoc-creator, and Bedoya’s craftiness has stepped to the forefront now that he’s in a more central role than he has occupied in the past. It’s a trio that looks best equipped to deal with Colombia’s array of attacking talents like James Rodriguez and Juan Cuadrado, while also keeping Los Cafeteros honest on the defensive end.That reality looks set to leave Nagbe as the odd man out, but his ability to come off the bench and influence matters in the past two matches was impressive — especially against Ecuador — and it seems likely tat the U.S. will need to him to fill that role at some point during the tournament. He could be a powerful substitute card for Klinsmann to play.There is a bit more wiggle room as it relates to the three forward spots, and Wood, Zardes and Pulisic are all in contention along with Graham Zusi and Clint Dempsey.Zardes’ speed is a distinctive quality in this group, though Wood has revealed a quick burst that allows him to get separation from defenders off the dribble. Pulisic has shown off the skills befitting a player who has played attacking midfield most of his life. It seems a certainty that the likes of Wood, Zardes and Pulisic will see the field to varying degrees.It raises a question of just how vulnerable Dempsey’s place in the lineup is. Granted, his spot still feels safe at the moment, and Dempsey was far more involved in the attack against Bolivia than he was against Ecuador. He had a hockey assist in the buildup to Zardes’ first goal, connecting with Bedoya who then released the speedster.But Dempsey hasn’t always looked comfortable in the three-forward alignment Klinsmann has adopted, and Wood seems more so given that he played in that system at times last season with Union Berlin. They are different players to be sure — Dempsey has the greater level of creativity – but it will be interesting to see how Klinsmann’s thinking in this area evolves as the tournament progresses.For his part, Wood is eager to keep contributing.”I think it’s time for a lot of the younger players to step up,” he said. “It’s a new cycle, and I think we’re all ready. We just have to find a good mixture of the veterans and the younger players, and I think we’ve been doing that pretty well.”The positive impressions are there. The upcoming weeks will reveal just how real they are.Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.
Copa America Group A: Colombia, Costa Rica the teams to beat
The Copa America is set to kick off, with Colombia, Costa Rica, Paraguay and hosts the United States getting things underway. Here is what to expect.
Arguably the most difficult group of the four, each match in Group A should be tense and hotly contested. Following up on their dazzling display in Brazil at the 2014 World Cup, Colombia should be considered the favorite to win the group with James Rodriguez leading the way. They will be joined by fellow CONMEBOL nation Paraguay, who performed well in the last two editions of the Copa America, reaching the final in 2011 and the semifinals last summer in Chile. They will also be joined by CONCACAF’s Costa Rica and the host nation United States. Costa Rica’s remarkable era continues under new coach Oscar Ramirez, while Jurgen Klinsmann is in need of a positive display after a disastrous 2015 to placate a disgruntled U.S. fan base.
Must-see game: Colombia vs. Paraguay
These two CONMEBOL nations know each other quite well and the tactical battle between Argentine coaches Jose Pekerman and Ramon Diaz should be fascinating. In addition to James, Colombia boast attack-happy Juan Cuadrado and Carlos Bacca, but they will have their work cut out for them against Paraguay. Traditionally stout in defense, there is enough up top to make the Paraguayan counterattack a lethal one, with Derlis Gonzalez the pick of the litter. Liga MX fans will recognize the names in the back as well; Toluca’s Paulo da Silva and Club America duo Miguel Samudio and Pablo Aguilar will be tasked with halting Colombia’s high-flyers.
Key player: James Rodriguez, Colombia
Yes, it is the obvious pick but this is a huge tournament for the Colombian playmaker. The 2015-16 season has been a rough one at Real Madrid, as he has largely been kept on the bench under Zinedine Zidane. With rumors of a move this summer, including a potential transfer to Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United, James will be keen to spearhead Colombia in attack and show clubs around Europe that he is worth the substantial price tag. James has often mentioned how “supported” he feels when playing for Colombia, and there will certainly be no shortage of backing when they take the field on June 3 against the U.S. in Santa Clara.
Dark horse team: Costa Rica
Oscar Ramirez has his team just where he wants them: under the radar. From back to front, the squad is largely made up of players who feature in Europe’s biggest leagues, with a sprinkling of Major League Soccer and Costa Rica’s domestic league as well. Simply put, the Ticos won’t be afraid of anyone, as was the case two years ago in Brazil. Joel Campbell is a handful for any defense, and Real Madrid’s Keylor Navas, arguably the best goalkeeper at the Copa America, will be in net. Even though Ramirez lacks experience on the international stage, his tactical acumen is impressive, evidenced by his guiding Alajuelense to two straight CONCACAF Champions League semifinals in 2013-14 and 2014-15.
Prediction: 1. Colombia, 2. Costa Rica, 3. Paraguay, 4. United States
Colombia’s talent, combined with the experience and savvy of head coach Jose Pekerman, gives Los Cafeteros the edge in this competitive group. After a disappointing quarterfinal exit in penalties to Argentina at the 2015 Copa, Colombia will be eager to show that Brazil 2014 was not a one-off. Costa Rica and Paraguay will battle for the second spot, and when push comes to shove, the Central Americans will have enough to finish above the Guarani.Perhaps it might have been different for Paraguay, but the unfortunate injury to key midfielder Nestor Ortigoza will see Ramon Diaz’s men on the outside looking in, as his absence will be felt both during the run of play and from the penalty spot. The play of the U.S. in the last 18 months does nothing to suggest that Jurgen Klinsmann’s men will advance. This will be a rough tournament for the hosts.
Copa America Group D: Argentina and Chile face off in 2015 final rematch
The Copa America is set to kick off, and Group D featuring Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Panama is high up on everyone’s lists of games to watch. Here is what to expect.
Group D is all about the three R’s: repeat, revenge and recognition. The first applies to Chile, the 2015 Copa America champions who will look to back up their home triumph with a second consecutive title.The second is for Argentina, the team Chile defeated in penalties en route to winning the 2015 championship. La Albiceleste are desperate to rid themselves of ghosts in tournaments past and validate the international career of their shining star and greatest-ever player, Lionel Messi. The five-time FIFA Ballon d’Or winner is recognized around the globe as a phenomenal talent, but the dominant storyline continues to be his inability to win a major international title with Argentina. Their 2015 Copa America final loss came on the heels of defeat in the 2014 World Cup final, so 2016 represents a chance to break the streak and finally put to rest the notion that Messi doesn’t stand up to the test of time in a head-to-head against Diego Maradona.
The third and final word applies to Bolivia and Panama, both of whom will be eager to earn the respect of the rest of the soccer world despite not being able to challenge for a spot in the knockout rounds.
Must-see game: Argentina vs. Chile
When it comes to must-see games, this one tops not only the group but the tournament table. A rematch between last year’s Copa America finalists, La Albiceleste and La Roja will face off in their respective opening-group stage games on June 6 in Santa Clara, California. If last year’s final is any indication of what’s to come, we can expect an electric, end-to-end affair with plenty of chances for both teams, and plenty of excellent saves from Chile’s Claudio Bravo and Argentina’s Sergio Romero.
The talent on display makes this match worth watching, regardless of the end result. Gerardo Martino’s Argentina boasts not only Messi, but Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Angel Di Maria and Javier Pastore, among other exceptional players. Chile’s title defense is led by the likes of Arturo Vidal, Alexis Sanchez and Gary Medel.
The last time the two teams played was in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying, a match in which Argentina exacted a small measure of revenge with a 2-1 away win in Santiago.
Key player: Lionel Messi, Argentina
You couldn’t have possibly expected anyone else, right? Not only was Messi’s inclusion in the Argentina squad good news for the country’s chances, it was a godsend for tournament organizers and fans alike. Messi will be the star of the show, and could reach new levels of fame in the United States should his team produce the results they are capable of.
Argentina shouldn’t have any problems advancing out of the group, but all eyes will be focused on how much Messi can contribute to the cause. He has never been as comfortable playing for his country as he is with his club, so fans expecting to see the type of magic he delivers in Europe might be somewhat disappointed. Still, the talent is always there, and Messi can produce moments of pure genius out of nowhere. If Argentina hope to win the tournament, they’ll want to do it with Messi leading the way; it’ll surely make their job a lot easier, and maybe even help to combat some of the scrutiny the star faces at home.
Dark horse: Panama
If any team is capable of spoiling the party and barring one of the 2015 finalists from advancing, it’s CONCACAF competitor Panama. Los Canaleroscount among their greatest assets a resolve and defensive organization that can cause confusion for opponents who prefer intricate build-up play. Their physicality has the potential to play a role in any upset they produce; they’re no strangers to hard-fought contests and don’t shy away from disciplinary action.
The team is aging — Felipe Baloy (35 years old), Blas Perez (35) and Luis Tejada (34) — but what they lack in youth, they more than make up for in quality goalkeeping from veteran Jaime Penedo and a penchant for punching above their weight as a unit. This isn’t the Panama that threatened to break into the CONCACAF elite a few years back, but on the right day and facing opponents that perhaps underestimate their strengths, they could pull off an upset and turn Group D on its head.
Prediction: 1. Argentina, 2. Chile, 3. Panama, 4. Bolivia
Jason Davis is a writer from Virginia covering American soccer.
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